Despite the fact that they were able to win Game 2 in Atlanta, while Rondo served his one-game suspension, Boston knows that they are a better team with their star point guard on the floor. In his first game back after a brief hiatus, Rondo put up an impressive stat line, recording yet another triple-double.
Rondo finished with 16 points, 12 assists, and 14 rebounds, but it took him some time to get going.
"For a point guard, they mixed up sometimes, executing, running the stuff," Doc Rivers commented. "Sometimes for them, that means not being aggressive… you have do to both at the same time."
Rondo committed five turnovers in the first half, but cleaned it up and committed just one turnover between the second half and overtime. Rhythm is crucial for a point guard and especially vital for a team as cohesive as the Celtics. After a slow start, Rondo found his groove.
"I just thought in the second half he had a better grasp on the play calls," Rivers said. "He got back in rhythm, he was calling the right sets on the floor."
In a series that has included particularly pretty basketball, it will be the team that can limit their mistakes the most that comes out on top. Going up against staunch defenses, it is not likely that either team runs their offensive schemes to perfection. With Rondo at the helm, however, the Celtics have a much better chance of maintaining a consistent, controlled attack.
Neither team is yet to crack 100 points in a game, despite Game 3 going to an overtime period. When a series is so low-scoring and dominated by defense, every possession is crucial. There was a brief adjustment period, but by the time the game went into overtime, Rondo was back to being the deliberate floor general that the Celtics have come to expect.
"Just a matter of timing. A lot of turnovers in the first half, I missed a couple of shots, but my teammates believed in me and told me keep going," Rondo said.
A game after missing Rondo and Ray Allen, the Celtics got encouraging contributions from both players. They will likely need the same contributions again throughout the series as Avery Bradley left Friday’s game with a left shoulder injury. His status for Game 4 in Boston is currently up in the air.
"Swag, that's what we call him around here," Kevin Garnett said of Rondo. "Young bull got a lot of swag. Kid's still learning, still getting better. He and Ray tonight: pure energy. It was good."
The Celtics are hoping for more "Swag" throughout this series in order to carry them into the second round of the playoffs.